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Harold de Andrado - the doyen of Sri Lankan cricket writers

by Neil Wijeratne - Island, Wed Mar 12 2003 

For me, like thousands of other Josephians, his name is the password for the Josephian cricket heritage. Through his writings over the years, possibly of over five decades, I was able to grasp the glamour and colour of Josephian cricket history. Also its unique records, the character of players and administrators. His writings on cricket influenced me so much that there was a time I had the habit of collecting his articles and pasting them on a used drawing book. Going through those articles over and over again, not only bring back nostalgic memories down memory lane but is also like visiting a cricket archives.

Harold de Andrado and Josephian cricket are synonymous, like the colours blue and white in the Josephian flag. He was to me what Neville Cardus was to the Englishmen. He became a hero of my little cricket world even before I had seen him personally. That was not because of his prowess as a cricketer but for the reason of his classic art of cricket writing.

Being a complete product of St. Joseph’s College, Harold’s journalistic career is studded with a long history like his club the Nondescripts C.C. He was a player and a coach but strangely his chosen field was the history of the game and its statistics. Although the Britishers planted and nurtured the game in the British Colony and later taught its finer points to the natives, they were never interested in guiding the locals in recording and maintaining the history of the game. The reason was obvious. The "Gurus" of the game never thought that the game would reach greater heights in the Colony. Therefore the history of the game became a neglected area like an abandoned paddy field. But thanks to some of our historians like S. P. Foenander, P. L. Bartholomeusz, Harold de Andrado, S. S. Perera, Gerry Vaidyasekera and M. M. Thawfeeq, to name a few, Sri Lankan cricket history was elegantly painted in words providing a richly fascinating account that we all should be proud of.

It was against such a backdrop that Harold de Andrado entered the cricket arena as a cricket writer. That was the time when Sri Lankan cricket was confined only to ‘at home" matches. News agency reporters from the other cricketing nations filled local newspaper sports columns with their "pieces". Harold was not satisfied with the traditional way of sports journalism. Bearing the expense out of his own pocket, Harold was able to enter the "press boxes" in England and Australia to cover "Ashes" series purely because of his passion for the game. His articles sent from abroad and appearing in the local press, could be considered as a pioneer work by a local sports scribe reporting from a foreign turf. Certainly it was a novel experience not only for the writer but also for the readers in Sri Lanka. Unlike modern sports writers who carries the "reporting from.... " bye-line with their photographs and numerous sponsor logos, only to see the scoreboard being reproduced in the so-called articles, Harold’s reporting either from England or Australia provided an in-depth account of the game. His versatility in the field of sports journalism makes him a genius. Over the years, as a cricket reporter, writer, historian and a statistician, he showed a great command of the subject which correctly elevated him to the highest place in the chosen field.

Stepping into Harold’s residence at Kotahena makes the visitor feel that he has entered a cricket library. More correctly an Australian cricket library. A shelf of books on Bradman and on Australian cricket including that giant book titled "200 Seasons of Australian Cricket" and the photographs of Australian criketing greats are some of the ornaments that adorn his visitors room. The reason is clear. He loves Australian cricket than any one else in Sri Lanka. Many moons ago, in 1969, he wrote the following lines for the official souvenir published by the Board of Control for cricket in Ceylon, to mark the visit of the Australian cricket team.

"...... I had always wanted to go to Australia, from the day 35 years ago as a tiny kindergarten kid, I listened to one of the early broadcasts of Sir Don Bradman making a triple century at Leeds. So the dream which began long ago in my boyhood became true when I boarded the "Arcadia" in October 1958 bound for Down Under. The summers are warn, there are blue skies, lush green outfields, though the batting strips are brown, firm, solid and perfect. Australia attracted me immediately. I like its streets, its shops, its people, its foods, its wines and above all the friendship of this great agricultural people who have made tremendous strides industrially too; a sign of real progress. Nowhere else in the world is the Press treated better. In Australia they like to welcome you because the Press comes next to the players." (From an article titled "In a reminiscent mood" written by Harold De Andrado in 1969.)

Much water has flown under the bridge since then changing the face of the game considerably. The white-flannelled war is now converted to a pyjama confrontation. Playing the game at the highest level is now strictly on commercial demands. Sponsors are the angel guardians of the game. In spite of all these revolutions, Harold de Andrado still makes us feel exhilarated through his writings of the by-gone era where the game is played with all the graces maintaining its noble traditions.

May his involvement in the field of cricket journalism continue "till the mountains disappear".